Blitz: Secure Multi-Hop Payments Without Two-Phase Commits

Authors: 

Lukas Aumayr, TU Wien; Pedro Moreno-Sanchez, IMDEA Software Institute; Aniket Kate, Purdue University; Matteo Maffei, TU Wien

Abstract: 

Payment-channel networks (PCN) are the most prominent approach to tackle the scalability issues of current permissionless blockchains. A PCN reduces the load on-chain by allowing arbitrarily many off-chain multi-hop payments (MHPs) between any two users connected through a path of payment channels. Unfortunately, current MHP protocols are far from satisfactory. One-round MHPs (e.g., Interledger) are insecure as a malicious intermediary can steal the payment funds. Two-round MHPs (e.g., Lightning Network (LN)) follow the 2-phase-commit paradigm as in databases to overcome this issue. However, when tied with economical incentives, 2-phase-commit brings other security threats (i.e., wormhole attacks), staggered collateral (i.e., funds are locked for a time proportional to the payment path length) and dependency on specific scripting language functionality (e.g., Hash Time-Lock Contracts) that hinders a wider deployment in practice.

We present Blitz, a novel MHP protocol that demonstrates for the first time that we can achieve the best of the two worlds: a single round MHP where no malicious intermediary can steal coins. Moreover, Blitz provides the same privacy for sender and receiver as current MHP protocols do, is not prone to the wormhole attack and requires only constant collateral. Additionally, we construct MHPs using only digital signatures and a timelock functionality, both available at the core of virtually every cryptocurrency today. We provide the cryptographic details of Blitz and we formally prove its security. Furthermore, our experimental evaluation on a LN snapshot shows that (i) staggered collateral in LN leads to in between 4x and 33x more unsuccessful payments than the constant collateral in Blitz; (ii) Blitz reduces the size of the payment contract by 26%; and (iii) Blitz prevents up to 0.3 BTC (3397 USD in October 2020) in fees being stolen over a three day period as it avoids wormhole attacks by design.

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BibTeX
@inproceedings {272294,
author = {Lukas Aumayr and Pedro Moreno-Sanchez and Aniket Kate and Matteo Maffei},
title = {Blitz: Secure Multi-Hop Payments Without Two-Phase Commits},
booktitle = {30th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 21)},
year = {2021},
isbn = {978-1-939133-24-3},
pages = {4043--4060},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity21/presentation/aumayr},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = aug,
}

Presentation Video